by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
Who would have thought that just a few months ago we would be looking back at the days of spending three straight days in a crowded, overheated gym, sleeping in a budget hotel, eating bad food and competing with 100 other coaches for the affections of the next prospect who would lead us to the promised land as “the good old days!”
Yet, here we are. With no showcases, tournaments, or prospect camps anywhere in our future coaches at every level are asking themselves what to do and where to go to mine the names for that next recruiting class. This challenge is especially daunting for that newly appointed head coach at an enrollment driven institution with no existing network of high school or club coaches to fall back on. While it is always a good idea to foster meaningful relationships with those who can “feed” your program it’s even more essential right now as you are relying on their insights and guidance regarding who will be good for your program – and who isn’t!
There is an additional challenge facing many college coaches. Research has found that approximately 65 percent of club coaches have a negative view of college coaches during the recruiting process. Why would that be the case? It’s because in many cases the club coach feels like an outsider, only brought into the fold when they have a prospect. Whether it is a high school coach or a club coach, they will be rightfully protective of their players in the same way you will be as their college coach. The best way to manage these vital relationships is to be proactive by building relationships over the long run. It’s to your advantage to control these relationships rather than floating along until you need them for support.
One of the tactics we often talk about related to recruiting success is the need to identify and win over those individuals who are likely to be key influencers of your recruits decision. In most cases that is going to be the recruit’s parents but it could also be their high school or club coach. If you want to be successful winning the recruit you need to be engaged with these stakeholders.
In the same way that we urge coaches to communicate consistently with the recruit it’s just as important to keep an open relationship with the recruit’s high school/club coach. The best way to accomplish this is to embrace them as an ally. Many times, without any intention of doing so, the high school coach feels the college coach treats them as inferior. Having spent 12 years as an athletic director at a high school I can tell you that some of the best coaches I have ever worked with over my 30 year career as an AD have been at that level. While a high school coach may not have the opportunity to invest the amount of time into their coaching duties as the college coach might (most are teaching classes full time) they care deeply about their athletes and are tremendous teachers and communicators.
Constructing a fruitful relationship with these coaches requires that you show interest in their programs even when they don’t have a prospect that you are interested in. It’s important for you to avail yourself to them as a peer in the coaching profession. An occasional phone call to see how they are doing, how they feel their team is coming together, is there any way you can help. If you can find time to lead a team clinic I promise you will be treated like a rock star! High school athletes truly light up when a college coach takes time from their schedule to lead a clinic.
Another way to establish an ally relationship with the high school/club coach is to invite them to offer YOU some advice and insight. Share with them some challenges YOU might be having and ask them for some guidance. Treating them as a peer will demonstrate that you see them as an equal.
I mentioned earlier that these coaches are just as protective of their athletes as you are of yours. Realizing that it is important that you allow these coaches easy access to your program so they can become familiar not just with you but also the culture and character of your program. If you are running a terrific program that embraces character, service, academic achievement, and athletic excellence you want them to see that in real terms and in real time. Only then will they feel good about sending a member of their “sports family” to your sport family.
The only limit to ways of winning the support of the high school/club coach is your imagination. Be creative and think outside the box. In my previous position as a DIII athletic director we had our student athletes partner with neighboring high school “Varsity Clubs” on a service project every year where we would rake leaves at homes throughout their community. It was a huge hit and involved both high school coaches and athletes and started relationships between athletes from both groups.
Another thing we would frequently do is invite coaches to bring their teams to games as our guests. Similarly, many of our coaches encouraged the high school or club coach to accompany the recruit on their visit to campus. That was a perfect way for those coaches to get a birds eye view of who are and what our program represented.
In some cases it is a challenge to find contact information for the high school coach. There are a couple resources out there that you may not be aware of. One of the things you can do is find your way to the desired state’s high school athletic association website. For example, for those of you in New York State the association is the New York State Public High School Athletic Association and the website is www.NYSPHSAA.com. There you can find a directory to every high school athletic department in New York State and the sports they sponsor as well as athletic director contact information. Use that to obtain coach information ( and athletic secretaries are always a great resource!). Another resource is the Clell Wade Directory. This is a subscription service you can join and additional information is available at www.coachesdirectory.com. This will provide you access to contact information for high school coaches around the country.
When it comes to winning the recruit you need to understand that the prospect won’t be making their decision in isolation. Their parents and the high school / club coaches will absolutely be influencing their decision. An investment in building those relationships will provide dividends in your recruiting success. I guarantee it!
Greg Carroll is a former high school and college athletic director, now on staff at Tudor Collegiate Strategies and working with college departments in the Northeast to develop better, more research-based recruiting strategies. To find out more about how TCS can connect you with the recruits, their parents, and their coaches more effectively like we are with other coaching staffs, click here.